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What is IVIG Therapy?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Intravenous immune globulin or IVIG therapy is an intravenous treatment that can be administered once or several times to address illness arising from serious viral infections, autoimmune disorders or immunosuppression. It also has a huge number of uses off-label, but since the treatment is so expensive, these therapies usually have to be paid out of pocket. The cost of this form of treatment is understandable, since in order to make IVIG, blood is collected from at least 1000 donors, pooled together, and treated in special ways to collect immunoglobulin G, which is an antibody. Administering this antibody may help fight some forms of illness and reduce inflammation, though precise mechanisms of why this treatment works are not fully known.

The number of times someone would receive IVIG therapy depends on the type of illness. Some people could receive an intravenous treatment daily, but many others would get the therapy once every few weeks, usually with treatments no more than three weeks apart. It’s thought the effectiveness of one IVIG infusion lasts about three weeks at most, but the spaces between treatments could depend on underlying condition. People could receive the treatment in a hospital setting or a profusion clinic, where they would get medical monitoring to be certain they don't have difficult side effects like extreme swelling. When patients are receiving a treatment daily, they might be admitted to a hospital for additional care.

Although IVIG therapy is thought safe and may prove effective in a variety of ways, there are definite side effects. The worst of these, which is rare, would be to contract viruses from the blood used. Blood is screened carefully to minimize risk of this occurrence, but there is a tiny chance that blood used to make this infusion could be contaminated. Other very serious side effects include the risk of kidney failure, rapid heartbeat and stroke, or development of certain illnesses like meningitis. Most people might experience some minor side effects like headache, nausea, dizziness, and/or fever, which typically disappear within a few hours after the therapy is over.

As mentioned, there are a high number of off-label uses suggested for IVIG therapy. One of the most common of these is to prevent pregnancy loss in women who have had multiple miscarriages. Additional suggested uses range significantly and some of the following conditions have been treated with the therapy: asthma, anorexia, Tourette syndrome, autism, thrombocytopenia, myasthenia gravis, lupus, epilepsy, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, and many others. Given few studies on the efficacy of IVIG therapy in these instances, they are usually deemed experimental treatments, and it is difficult to say how well the therapy works for these conditions.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon141864 — On Jan 11, 2011

Can you tell me if I have Scleroderma, with lung fibrosis, overlap Myositis, Raynaud's, if this treatment would be a help in improving the disease. I am on Cellcept/Prednisone and vitamins.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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